It’s the middle of the night. You’re penniless and your landlord hates you. And you have to wash the goat. I call that “a low ebb”.
This was Laurel and Hardy’s final silent comedy – made early in 1929 and released late in 1929.
A goat has escaped and befriended Stan. They cannot shake off the goat despite barely having a cent to feed themselves. Most of the film takes place in their rented bedroom – rented from perennial antagonist Edgar Kennedy, who sleeps in the room below them.
Kennedy of course is always storming upstairs to complain about the noise. At one point he claims (captioned) that his is a respectable establishment, but behind him in the corridor a young woman walks by followed by a sailor who tips his cap forward as an indicator of amorous intent.
(I miss the complex semiology of hats – the rich implied meanings of hat wearing and doffing and tilting and exchanging that we lost when compulsory hat wearing was abolished.)
The plot of this film is so unimportant that it’s not worth repeating. The goat is, of course, less of a destructive presence than Stan and Ollie themselves and the film can be regarded, to some extent as a remake of They Go Boom. The goat is just one more tiresome thing to be taken care of.
More importantly, here we see, for first time, the foot massage joke. This joke would later be repeated in Beau Hunks, and aspects of the routine would be recycled in a number of different contexts in a number of different films. This the joke where Ollie thinks he is massaging his own foot and is in fact massaging Stan’s. Clearly Stan and Ollie have reached a stage of co-dependency where they very literally do no know where one of them ends and the other begins. Whether Stan is appropriating Ollie’s pleasure or Ollie Stan’s is hard to tell. All we can tell is that it takes Ollie a very enjoyable length of time before he’s alerted to the fact that Stan rather than Ollie is at the receiving end of a foot massage. And Ollie sighs with satisfaction as Stan is being ministered to.
Imagine Jules and Vincent discussing the implications of this scene in Pulp Fiction?
The foot massage is such a delightful bit of clowning because it’s about the relationship between the two. These individuals are intertwined on so many levels that they no longer have pleasures or pains independently.